Poop Facts: Shapes, Colours, Abnormalities, and More
Feces is the medical term applied to the motions or discharge of the rectum. Also known as "stools" or "crap" or a word beginning with the letter S and ends with HIT. As well as the family friendly version: "POOP"!
The colon reserves what remains of food after digestion in the small intestine. Mass peristalsis thrusts the feces down to the rectum for evacuation. Then you poop it out!
Feces is the waste material discharged by the bowels after the digestion of food. As well as food residue, the feces, or stools, also contain bile, mucus and large quantities of bacteria that have helped in the process of digestion. The two most common problems associated with this process are constipation and diarrhea. Blood in the stools is an indication of some abnormal condition and should be reported to your doctor.
The Food Cycle
Say you eat a ham sandwich. After it enters the stomach, it will be digested, absorbed, and processed by the liver. Most of the lettuce remains as indigestible cellulose at the end of the ileum. This passes, together with great quantities of gastric secretions and other debris through the ileocaecal valve into the caecum, the pouch at the start of the colon, the main part of the large intestine. The principal function of the large intestine is the retrieval of water and important chemicals by reabsorption into the bloodstream. The colon disposes of the waste material-all that remains of the ham sandwich eaten many hours before- through the anus in the form of feces.
What Causes Defecation?
Peristalsis eventually pushes enough fecal material into the rectum to distend the rectal wall, stimulating pressure receptors to inform the brain that defecation is necessary.
Evacuation is performed as a conscious action by contracting the abdominal muscles, tightening the diaphragm and holding the breath. The anal sphincter, a tight ring of muscle around the anus, opens under the pressure and the feces pass out. In the first year or two of life the anal sphincter opens unconsciously in an involuntary nervous reflex. In later infancy the brain brings the action under conscious control.
The Bristol Stool Scale: Classifying your Poop
The Bristol Stool Scale or Bristol Stool Chart is a medical aid designed to classify the form of human feces into seven groups. It was developed by Heaton and Lewis at the University of Bristol and was first published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 1997. The form of the stool depends on the time it spends in the colon.
The seven types of stool are:
- Type 1: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)
- Type 2: Sausage-shaped, but lumpy
- Type 3: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface
- Type 4: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft
- Type 5: Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily)
- Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool
- Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces (entirely liquid)
Types 1 and 2 indicate constipation, with 3 and 4 being the "ideal stools," especially the latter, as they are the easiest to pass. Types 5-7 tend further towards diarrhea.
A large number of disorders may affect bowel function and cause abnormalities of the feces. If the stools are unusually soft and watery, diarrhea is said to be present; if the stools are excessively hard and are passed infrequently, this is called constipation. Among the disturbances that may cause diarrhea and constipation are infections, irritations, and other disorders of the intestines; allergic reactions; and emotional disturbances.
The most common poop abnormalities are:
- Diarrhea (runny poop)
- Constipation (hard poop)
- Diverticulitis (pain and fever)
- Tenesmus (constant desire to poop)
- Abnormal Colouring
Diarrhea (Runny Poop)
This consists of the excessive discharge of watery feces from the bowel and is a symptom of many diseases. It is commonly associated with intestinal catarrh. As with constipation, the causes of diarrhea are many, running from stress or a hangover to serious illnesses or poisoning. If diarrhea continues for several days without improving, it is possible to become dangerously dehydrated.
Although diarrhea frequently is evidence of some trivial indisposition, the possibility of its association with a grave complaint renders it a symptom which must never be regarded lightly. It is important to remember never to treat a symptom without first endeavoring to investigate and treat the underlying cause.
If this principle is lost sight of, much harm may be done, for a relieved symptom creates a false feeling of security. If the disease continues to progress under cover, valuable time and opportunity may be lost. To imagine the sufferer is cured is to court disaster.
Constipation (No Poop)
Normally feces are only present in the rectum for a few minutes before defecation, their arrival there constituting an immediate call of nature. Constipation is a delay in the evacuation of feces. The passing of motions less frequently than once in 48 hours constitutes constipation. It may take the form of
- (a) a slow passage of the contents through the intestine to the rectum,
- (b) delay and difficulty in emptying the rectum, or
- (c) a combination of the two.
Cause of Constipation
Constipation may be due to
- Habits: e.g., neglect of the call of nature, sedentary life, or senility;
- Weakness of muscles as a result of obesity, repeated pregnancies, or ruptured perineum;
- The character of intestinal contents: the diet may not provide sufficient fiber, being deficient in vegetables, porridge, brown bread, fruit, &c., or there may not be sufficient fluid;
- Various causes- e.g., after diarrhea or purgation, and in lead-poisoning, neurasthenia, and intestinal obstruction.
Symptoms of Constipation
The evacuations are hard and insufficient, and often accompanied by mucus. Fecal masses can sometimes be felt in the abdomen, and there may be pain from irregular intestinal contractions. The general symptoms include lassitude, depression, headache, giddiness, and sleeplessness. Neglected constipation may give rise to general ill-health, as shown by boils, sores, anemia. Intra-abdominal pressure may cause palpitation, hemorrhoids or hernia; diverticulitis and dilatation of the intestine may also result.
Treatment of Constipation
Everyone should endeavor to secure a daily normal stool. A short rest after breakfast often permits the stimulus to develop. Walking or other exercise should be taken, and massage and electricity are also useful. Diet should include porridge, whole-meal bread, apples, prunes, figs, oranges, and vegetables. Tea, cocoa, rice, cheese, nuts, milk, eggs, salted fish or meats, pastry, and fried foods should be restricted or avoided. A glass of water should be taken half an hour before meals, especially breakfast.
Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis is a common condition in the large intestines of older people. Small pouches in the mucous membrane lining protrude through gaps in the muscular outer wall of the bowel.
Diverticulitis occurs when the pouches become inflamed and infected causing abdominal pain, either diaspora or constipation, fever, and blood in the feces. If a pouch ruptures, peritonitis is the result.
Successful treatment of diverticulosis includes a high fiber diet and high fluid intake. Diverticulitis needs rest, antibiotics and occasionally surgery.
Tenesmus: Too Much Poop
Sometimes the desire to pass a bowel movement is continuous or recurs overly frequently, without the production of significant amounts of feces. Possibly there may be small amounts of mucus or blood.
This is an uncomfortable symptom and may be due to a condition called irritable bowel syndrome which can cause either constipation or diarrhea and for which stress seems to be the main known cause.
The growth of polyps (small benign growths from the mucous membrane lining of the rectum) may give rise to a desire to defecate. These will need to be surgically removed, but the operation is quite simple and straightforward.
Other disorders are more serious and include prolapse (downward displacement) and cancer of the rectum.
Abnormal Colour of Bowel Movements
Feces is normally dark brown in colour due to a pigment it absorbs from the gall bladder bile on its way through the system. However, the colour may vary according to what we have eaten, e.g. a meal of spinach will lead to dark green movements, and beets will lead to red, almost bloody looking stools.
Black: If you are taking iron tablets your bowel movements will probably be very dark or black. If you have very dark or black bowel movements (melaena) and you are not taking iron tablets, it may be a sign of bleeding in the digestive tract, possibly from a stomach ulcer, and you should get prompt medical advice.
Gray: Constipated motions which are pale and crumbly are usually due to excess of casein. Protein decomposition is indicated by alkaline, putrid smelling stools.
Green: Certain drugs alter the colour of feces. Bismuth gives rise to dirty green or blackish motions, grey powder and calomel to green ones. Green stools can also occur due to the presence of bile. This often results from hurried transit through the large bowel. Over-purging or bacterial infection of the bowel-wall prevents the normal change from green to yellow pigment. Grey powder may also cause green stools.
Red/bloody: If you notice blood in your bowel movements (and you haven't been eating beets) you may have a minor problem such as a tear in the anus or hemorrhoids (piles). However, especially if you feel unwell and have a temperature, it may mean something much more serious is amiss in your digestive tract such as inflammation of the colon or rectum or dysentery caused by an infection, which may need treatment with antibiotics.
Yellow: Albumin water and whey produce thin brownish-yellow stools. Bowel movements that are unusually pale can indicate that your digestive system is not absorbing the food properly, or, if your eyes look yellow as well, that you have a gall bladder or liver disease such as hepatitis. It can also signal cancer of the pancreas so expert diagnosis is essential. If there is an obstruction of the bile duct so that bile does not enter the small intestine, the stool becomes clay-colored.
Frothy: Frothy stools, very acid in reaction, show that excess of carbohydrate is being given. Bacillary dysentery and intussusception give rise to blood and mucus in the stools.
Greasy: Constipated motions which are acid and present a greasy appearance when broken down are generally due to excess of fat. Large, pale, putty-like or semi-fluid motions, four or five daily, with an acid reaction, constituting the so-called "fat diarrhea," are also due to excess of fat.
Pus: In certain infections of the colon (the last segment of the large intestine) there may be pus in the feces, and in other colon inflammations large amounts of mucus may be passed with the feces.
Stool Colours in Children
Infants: The stools of infants fed on cow's milk are normally pale yellowish, homogeneous (that is, of the same composition throughout), and feebly alkaline or faintly acid to litmus paper. They number three or four daily during the first few weeks, afterwards one or two a day. The motions do not become brown and formed until starchy food is taken.
Children: In young children suffering from diarrhea, the stools are green due to the bacterial decomposition.
Curds, as the whitish masses sometimes seen in the yellow or greenish matrix of the stool are called, generally consist of soaps, fats, or mucus, though they are occasionally due to casein. They indicate that the child is unable to digest satisfactorily, either because the food is excessive or because its composition does not suit. Here's how to tell the difference between different types:
- The casein curd is generally firm, tough, and sinks in water.
- The soap curd consists of white granular seed-like particles.
- Undigested fat appears as small flocculent irregular yellowish masses. Unabsorbed fat can be differentiated from casein by the fact that it is soluble in equal parts of alcohol and ether.
- Mucus often takes the form of balls.
If this is a concern, a nurse should keep close observation on the patient's stools as regards their number, size, consistence, reaction to litmus paper, colour, and homogeneity. Such records are invaluable in determining which element of the food is causing the issue.
Types of Poop: A Little Bit of Humor
- Ghost Poop: That's the kind where you feel the poop come out, have poop on the toilet paper, but there is no poop in the toilet.
- Clean Poop: The kind where you poop it out, see it in the toilet, but there is nothing on the toilet paper.
- Second Wave Poop: It happens when you're done pooping. You've pulled your pants up to your knees, and you realise that you have to poop some more.
- Brain Hemorrhage Poop: Also known as "Pop a vein in your forehead " poop. The kind where you strain so much to get it out that you practically have a stroke.
- Sweetcorn Poop: Self explanatory
- Log Poop: The kind of poop that is so huge that you're afraid to flush the toilet without breaking it into a few pieces with your toilet brush.
- Drinker's Poop: That is the kind of poop that you have the morning after a long night of drinking - its most noticeable trait is the skid marks left on the bottom of the toilet.
- "Gee I wish I could poop" poop: It's the kind of poop where you want to poop, but all you do is sit on the toilet with cramps and fart a few times.
- Spinal Tap Poop: That's the one where it hurts so much coming out that you swear it was leaving you sideways.
- Wet Cheeks Poop: Also known as "The Power Dump": That's the kind that comes out of your ass so fast that your butt cheeks get splashed with the toilet water.
- Liquid Poop: The kind where yellowish-brown liquid shoots out of your butt, splashes all over the inside of the toilet bowl and, at the same time, chronically burns your tender poop-chute.
- The Crowd Pleaser: This poop is so intriguing in size and/or appearance that you have to show it to someone.
- Mood Enhancer: This poop occurs after a lengthy period of constipation, allowing you to be your old self again.
- The Ritual: This poop occurs at the same time time each day and is accomplished with the aid of a newspaper
- Guinness Book of Records Poop: A poop so noteworthy it should be recorded for future generations
- The Aftershock Poop: This poop has an odor so powerful that anyone entering the vicinity within the next 7 hours is affected.
- The Honeymoon's Over Poop: This is any poop created in the presence of another person.
- Groaner: A poop so huge it cannot exit without vocal assistance
- Floater: Characterized by its floatability, this poop has been known to resurface after many flushes
- Ranger: A poop which refuses to let go. It is usually necessary to engage in a rocking or bouncing motion, but quite often the only solution is to push it away with a small piece of toilet paper.
- Phantom Poop: This appears in the toilet mysteriously and no one will admit to putting it there.
- Peek-a-boo-poop: Now you see it, now you don't. This poop is playing games with you. Requires patience and muscle control.
- The Bombshell: A poop that comes as a complete surprise at a time that is either inappropriate to poop (i.e. during lovemaking or a root canal) or you are nowhere near pooping facilities.
- Snake Charmer: A long skinny poop which has managed to coil into a frightening position. Usually harmless
- Olympic Poop: This poop occurs exactly one hour prior to the start of any competitive event in which you are entered and bears a close resemblance to the Drinker's poop.